The US doesn’t have intellectual property specialist judges as such, but some are more patent-focused than others.
One of those judges is Derek Gilliland, a former patent litigator turned magistrate judge for the District Court for the Western District of Texas, the US’s busiest forum for patent litigation.
Gilliland was tapped for the job by the court’s de-facto patent judge Alan Albright in November 2021, and he started at the court this month. He was brought on to help Albright with Markman hearings, motions for summary judgment or transfer and, most importantly, discovery motions.
In a new and exclusive podcast, Gilliland tells Managing IP that he’s found the work to be fascinating.
“Right now, one of the most interesting parts of the job is the variety of technical subject matters involved – everything from lightbulbs to computer software and hardware. That’s a lot of fun.
“Another that’s struck me has been that the discovery disputes have all involved things I’ve dealt with as a lawyer on one side or the other in the exact same argument. It’s been interesting to see that from the judge’s perspective.”
Gilliland adds that it’s also been great working with Albright over the past month.
“Anyone that knows [Albright] would expect that his management style is very high level. When he refers a case to me, that’s my case – he’s not asking me questions about it or telling me how to do it.
“But we spend a fair amount of time together chatting and going for walks. I need to get my bike over there so we can go for rides together.
“It’s like working for a friend and mentor, but also someone who isn’t going to micromanage everything.”
Turning to the point of how he would like to expand his role at the court, Gilliland says he’s hoping to get the green light to try some cases in the near future.
“The parties have to agree to let me be the trial judge – I can currently do everything except that. I’m really hoping to get some consent because I’d love to try some cases.”
The magistrate judge also shares his thoughts on the ‘controversial’ reputation of the court, helping to manage around 1,000 patent cases a year, and how litigants should conduct themselves.